with quotation marks

“Use a comma to shift between the main discourse and a quotation.”

~the OWL at Purdue

When you quote a whole sentence or more, you are stepping aside to let the person you are quoting stand at the podium, and the comma signals that. On the other hand, when you only quote a few words and insert them into your own sentence, it’s more like putting finger quotes in the air rather than moving over, so you don’t need a comma.

Professional Examples

~from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

~from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

~from John Krakauer’s Into the Wild

~from Shannon Hale’s The Actor and the Housewife

~from Mark Edmundson’s “On the Uses of a Liberal Education”

~from James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me:
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

~from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation

~from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead

How Commas Work with Quotations

“Whole-sentence quote,” tag.

Independent clause that includes a “partial-sentence quote.”

A comma with a “tag” (a line such as “he says” describing who is speaking) signals to the reader that you are turning part of the sentence over to a different speaker, letting that person say an entire sentence within yours. On the other hand, if you’re only quoting a piece of a sentence, you work it into the structure of your sentence and use punctuation around the quote only as necessary for the sentence structure.

Use a capital letter for the beginning of a whole sentence quote, even if that word wasn’t capitalized in the original quote. On the other hand, a partial sentence quote should not start with a capital letter (unless the first word is a proper noun), even if the first word was capitalized in the original wording.

Notice that the tag can be dropped into several places, sort of like an interruption. Choose which place works best with the quote:

Tag, “Whole-sentence quote.”

“Whole-sentence,” tag, “quote.”

“Whole-sentence quote,” tag. “Second whole-sentence quote.”

Also notice how in the middle you would use a comma on both sides of the tag if the sentence is unfinished but use a period after the tag if the quote starts a new sentence after the tag.

Commas always come inside the closing quotation mark — in America, at least. When you see a comma on the outside, it’s either a typo or a British publication.

Self Check

Look at the quote by itself. If it can stand alone as a sentence, then check to be sure you have a comma separating it from the rest of the sentence outside the quote and be sure the quote starts with a capital letter. If the quote can’t stand alone, check to make sure that the rest of the sentence flows into it (no comma or capital letter).

Also, check to be sure that the tag leads directly into the quote with a word like “said.” If not, you might need a colon instead (see the quotation marks page).

50 Comments »

  1. Andrea Oldham said

    •Wally, the director, said, “For the next few months, we’re all a family,” and insisted on a family party so everyone could meet their cousins.

    ~from Shannon Hale’s The Actor and the Housewife

    “Attention shoppers,” the cashier exclaimed over the loud speaker. The announcement made my heart race, my palms sweat, and my wallet cry.

  2. Cory Hansen said

    “Be a good citizen” is the message that textbooks extract from the past.

    This is a good use of a quote in a scentence. It does not however, follow the example of quotes in a list with commas

    “lights, camera, and action” the director yelled as he was ready to begin shooting.

  3. Becky M said

    In the final postcard he sent to Wayne Westerberg, McCandless had written, “If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again I want you to know you’re a great man. I now walk into the wild.”
    ~from John Krakauer’s Into the Wild
    The comma is used here to set off the direct quote —chilling.

    My father always lived by the rules, “Children are to be seen and not heard,” and “Sit up straight, don’t slouch.”

    • Becky Mattingly said

      I still hear my father saying, “Children are to be seen and not heard.”

  4. Randie Patterson said

    Wally, the director, said, “For the next few months, we’re all a family,” and insisted on a family party so everyone could meet their cousins

    I like this sentence because it breaks the sentence up so it doesnt sound like a run on sentence with a quote slapped in the middle of it. It flows nicely.

    My husband has said that all he needs in life is “my ipad, my iphone..oh and my wife!”

  5. Jennifer R. said

    “Be a good citizen” is the message that textbooks extract from the past.
    ~from James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me:
    Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

    The Quotation marks express a bit of sarcasm the author feels toward history textbooks.

    My niece Lily, when describing any movie she has seen, always says, “Oh, I love that movie!”

  6. Katie V. said

    Wally, the director, said, “For the next few months, we’re all a family,” and insisted on a family party so everyone could meet their cousins.
    ~from Shannon Hale’s The Actor and the Housewife

    I think the quotation really makes the whole point of the sentence stand out. He wants everyone to realize they are a family for the next little while and by using that quote in the sentence, you get what he is trying to say.

    One of my favorite quotes says, “Speak kind words, receive kind echos.”

  7. Commas with quotation marks
    If you take a little tidbit of a sentence from someone else you can just work it into your sentence without using a comma. If you want to quote the whole sentence you need a comma and a he said or she said to tell the reader someone else is talking.

    “Twins, hmm,” the ultrasound tech said as she flipped through my chart.

    The word “twins” didn’t register right away; it was like a foreign language to us.

  8. elysagiles said

    When you want to use a whole-sentense quote in your writing, using commas lets the reader now that this quotation is the main focus of the sentence. Using a comma instead of a period lets you keep the quote with the sentance explaining it, or with its “tag”.

    Voltaire once said, “”The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while Nature cures the disease.”

  9. Sara Farnsworth said

    You use commas to insert certain quotations, but only if you are quoting that person’s whole sentence. If you are only quoting part of the sentence, you just have quotation marks around the quote, no comma needed.
    Ex1: The Librarian told me, “Kids these days seem to come to the library less and less to get books, and more to get dvds.”
    Ex2: I once had an english teacher tell me that books these days are “fluffy and full of air” whereas classic literature had “a solid backbone.”

  10. fgarci said

    A comma is used when a full sentence quote is inserted in a sentence and is introduced with a tag when it is only a couple of words that are quoted a comma is not needed.

    Every day when I come home from work and ask my daughter what she did that day she says, “I went to Target and looked at the toys.”

  11. Mitch said

    Wally, the director, said, “For the next few months, we’re all a family,” and insisted on a family party so everyone could meet their cousins.

    ~from Shannon Hale’s The Actor and the Housewife

    Through the commas we are able to see the separation from speaker, credentials, and quote before the added phrase.

    Henry David Thoreau once said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have always imagined”.

    • Mitch said

      Henry David Thoreau once said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have always imagined.”

  12. Becky Tueller said

    “This is a firm,” said Mario Savio at Berkeley during the Free Speech protests of the Sixties, “and if the Board of Regents are the board of directors . . . then . . . the faculty are a bunch of employees and we’re the raw material. But we’re a bunch of raw material that don’t mean . . . to be made into any product.”
    ~from Mark Edmundson’s “On the Uses of a Liberal Education

    This is a good example of how a quote can be broken up to add additional information. After “this is a firm”, there is a comma not a period which indicates, to me, the quote will continue. The pause to give the author’s name and reference to the speech allows the reader to gain additional information to understand the significance of the quote.

    “Happiness does not come from without,” Helen Keller implies, “it comes from within.”

  13. Amber said

    Wally, the director, said, “For the next few months, we’re all a family,” and insisted on a family party so everyone could meet their cousins.

    ~from Shannon Hale’s The Actor and the Housewife

    The comma and quotes make this sentance stand out a little, grabs your attention.

    While putting my kids to bed one night Dallin said, ” Mom I need more hugs, because when I miss you I need more.” I Love hearing that!

  14. Trista said

    •Wally, the director, said, “For the next few months, we’re all a family,” and insisted on a family party so everyone could meet their cousins.

    The commas work in this sentence because the frist commas leads into the sentence well and also gives you more information after the quote.

    Example: Aristotle once said, “at his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.”

  15. Shelley Nudd said

    When using a full sentence quote the comma is like the introduction of a new speaker. If I am the speaker and am using a short phrase I quote it with out the introduction of a comma. Of course the quotation marks around the quote.

    Example: Abused women worry that “it is my fault” they are told by the abuser, “why do you do things that make me mad.”

  16. Patrick Williamson said

    •Wally, the director, said, “For the next few months, we’re all a family,” and insisted on a family party so everyone could meet their cousins.

    ~from Shannon Hale’s The Actor and the Housewife

    I like the use of quotations in this sentence, it helps put emphasis on what objective Wally is trying to accomplish.

    My sixteen year old son asks, “why can’t I have my own car to drive?” He loves to ask this question everyday, which drives me crazy!

    • Patrick Williamson said

      My sixteen year old son asks, “Why can’t I have my own car to drive?” He loves to ask this question everyday, which drives me crazy!

  17. Kaitlin Anderson said

    Commas with quotations are like teaching a class. You can bring in a guest to give a presentation and give the time to them, or you can take comments from the students and keep the lesson going.

    Photographer Matt Hardy said, “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”

  18. Kyle Norman said

    •Or, as Marianne Moore put it, “The world’s an orphan’s home.”

    I really love this because it just puts marianne as the main foccus, and what she said that much more important.

    Or, as my brother brian (who is on a mission) would always say, “raise the roof.”

  19. sharla c said

    * Kroc was an inspiring, paternalistic figure who looked for people with “common sense,” “guts and staying power,” and “a love of hard work.”

    ~from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation
    the commas and quotation marks seemed to bring the sentence more to life.

    Larina kase says,”To become successful is to recognize every tiny step and then take more of them.”

  20. When mocked by the owner of the kitchen and pressed to say what it is that we have to cry about, she tosses back her head of flaming red hair and says, “The winds of solitude roaring at the edge of infinity.”

    ~from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

    Commas with a quote help this sentence by emphasizing what she is talking about.

    “You can do anything, but not everything,” David Allen once said.

  21. Jaron Woolley said

    Definition:
    Using commas with quotation marks is tricky. Its like putting your napkin on your lap. You better put it in the right spot or you’ll have a mess on your hands!

    Example:
    As we crossed paths with another group we smiled, then asked,”How much further to the top?” In response they mumbled something along the lines of “…you’re not even close.”

  22. Regina Farley said

    Definition: Commas with quotation marks are a great way to include a quote from someone whil incorporating it into your sentence, helping your sentence to flow more smoothly adn transition better.

    Example: Emerald leaned over during math class and whispered, “Reg, I’m so excited for our game tonight. I just hope it doesn’t rain!” Later that night, we found out our game was canceled due to inclement weather.

  23. Wendy said

    Example: I have always liked the phrase “nursing a grudge,” because many people are tender of their resentments, as of the thing nearest their hearts.
    ~from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead

    LIVE UNITED “Give, Advocate, Volunteer” the theme for the United Way, their annual campaign is underway.

    • Wendy Edwards said

      “LIVE UNITED Give Advocate Voluteer” is the theme for the United Way, their annual campaign is now underway.

  24. Kevin F. said

    •And more than that, he worries that the soccer enthusiasts want the U.S. to “get with the rest of the world’s program.”
    ~from Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World:
    An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

    The comma helps brake up he worries and the quotations help quote what the what the soccer enthusiasts is saying.

    When we sit down for dinner my dog (Randi) will give us a loud, “bark” as if she wants some food as well.

    • Kevin F. said

      When we sit down for dinner my dog (Randi) will give us a loud “bark” as if she wants some food as well.

  25. Joanna said

    •“Be a good citizen” is the message that textbooks extract from the past.

    The quotations emphasis a gist of what is going on by stating what the
    testbook is talking about.

    Right as I was thinking it was time to go, my husband shouts, “Hurry up, we are going to be late!”

  26. Jackie said

    A comma used with quotation marks can be thought of like an MC handing the mic to a guest speaker. It signifies that someone else is talking.

    I remember the first, and only, time he ever commented on my weight. We had only been married for a few months, and as I was changing into my pajamas my sweet husband innocently asked, “Honey, would you like to start exercising with me?”

  27. Amber Lyman said

    Definition:
    Quotations allow you to borrow an idea from another person.
    Example:
    Health Care reform is scary and we all know that it is needed; a politician at the health care summit said it best with, “This is a car that can’t be recalled and fixed … we ought to start over.”

  28. “Be a good citizen” is the message that textbooks extract from the past.

    ~from James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me:
    Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
    This sentence works good with the quotation because it flows good.

    “Come help me out”, the old lady said as she was trying to move a table.

    • “Come help me out,” the old lady said as she was trying to move a table.

  29. Abad said

    Definition:
    A comma with a quotaion works kind of like being a grown up. When it is complete and can stand alone, it needs to be capitalized(adult) and seperated. When it cannot stand alone(child) it needs to flow into your sentence with no comma or seperation.

    Example:
    My mother-in-law says, “If you complete 99% and not 100%, then you have not done enought”.

  30. joshansen said

    Commas with quotation marks are used to signal a whole-sentence quote or more. But, if you’re only quoting part of a sentence, then they should only be used when necessary for the structure of your sentence. Also, it’s important to remember that commas always come inside the closing quotation mark.

    “No, no,” he replies, “Not in that office. I could never make anything.”

  31. Definition: By putting the quotation marks around a part of speech, shifts the conversation back to the one who is speaking. Sort of gives you a heads up as to who is in charge of the conversation.

    Example:

    Mr. Jones politely opened the door for Mrs. Jones; “he said”, after you my dear and even made a small bow with his arm across his chest; his gesture was a way to show the public, that might be looking on, that his wife was to be treated with royalty.

  32. thjones44 said

    Definition-
    Commas can be used in marking a quote, if an entire sentences is quoted, its used to indicate and emphasize the speaker’s thoughts. If a partial sentence is quoted it a more subtle. Remember the quote can be strategically placed in a sentence, and the comma needs to be placed accurately.

    Example-
    The addiction to caffeine seems to be prevalent at earlier and earlier ages for some. I asked my nephew what his favorits soda was, the rambunxios 12 year old replied, “I love red bulls, those things rule!”

  33. Definition
    Puttunf a comma in with your citations it makes the person saying the quote stand out and makes them be the focus of attention in the sentence

    Example
    The birds have gone, “the sparrows flew by like there was something after them,”yet they never really stayed to play

  34. aortiz12 said

    Def: a comma in quottion marks indicate a stop to a begining of a quote or some one elses thoughts

    Ex: My question to her was, “Are you thinking of quitting anytime soon?” she quickly responded, “I dont think so, the cigarette and smoking to me is like a good friend. It’s always by my side when ever I need it – it never leaves me by myself.”

  35. Shonnie said

    Kroc was an inspiring, paternalistic figure who looked for people with “common sense,” “guts and staying power,” and “a love of hard work.”
    ~from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation
    This works really well because it allows the writer to quote one person several times in one sentence allowing him to prove a point.

    Sentence: “Oh my gosh, just stop it!”, she exclaimed.

  36. dan said

    •Or, as Marianne Moore put it, “The world’s an orphan’s home.”
    ~from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

    commas seperate and help bring out the quote.

    as I sat and watched the Utes lose, to the Huskies, I still yelled “Go Utes” along with the 45,000 other crimson fans.

  37. derrick hughes said

    These commas let the readers know your taking a break from talking and letting someone else have a turn.

    On Valentines Day he refused to take her a Valentine saying, “You only give Valentines to people you like.”

  38. Zack H. said

    •Or, as Marianne Moore put it, “The world’s an orphan’s home.”

    Let’s the persons saying have more emphasis.

    Like Matt always says, “A bad day of fishing, is better then a good days work.”

  39. ana ruiz said

    Commas with quotation are like like television comercial; it make you pause before the main idea of what the person said .

    Did he really say,”Finish this by tomarrow morning”?

  40. Andrea Oldham said

    •When mocked by the owner of the kitchen and pressed to say what it is that we have to cry about, she tosses back her head of flaming red hair and says, “The winds of solitude roaring at the edge of infinity.”
    ~from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

    The quotation marks and what someone says adds so much to the sentence, rather than just a description, or just trying to give details. It brings the sentence to life.

    Katie, my sister, said, “It’s time for dinner,” and then placed the food on the table.

  41. Alli Wright said

    The woman was as suble as a shotgun when she yelled, “Those blasted milkmen are always after my roses!”

    • Alli Wright said

      •Or, as Marianne Moore put it, “The world’s an orphan’s home.”
      ~from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

      This example shows in a simple way the format for a sentance with quotations and a comma.

  42. Definition: Putting a comma with quotation marks is like a person telling a story, who changes voices for the different people talking. You know when one person is talking and when they finish.

    Example: The child said, ” I miss my Daddy.”

  43. kclona said

    Please send me additional examples

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